What is acute sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis is a short-term inflammation of the sinuses, most often including a sinus infection. (Sinusitis is also known as rhinosinusitis because the swelling almost always includes nasal tissue as well as sinus tissue.) The sinuses are four paired cavities (spaces) in the head. They are connected by narrow channels. The sinuses make thin mucus that drains out of the channels of the nose, cleaning the nose. Typically filled with air, the sinuses can become blocked by fluid and swell from irritation. When this happens, they can become infected.

How long does acute sinusitis last?

Acute sinusitis lasts less than a month. Your symptoms may go away by themselves within about 10 days, but it may take up to three or four weeks.

What are risk factors for acute sinusitis?

Some people are more likely than others to get acute sinusitis. These include:

  • People who have allergies.
  • People who have structural problems with their noses (like a deviated septum) or polyps, which are growths that can hang inside noses or sinus cavities.
  • People who spend a great deal of time in places where infections happen, like preschools or day cares.

What causes acute sinusitis?

Acute sinusitis is often caused by a common cold or allergies. It can also be caused by a bacterial infection or fungus that causes the sinuses to swell and become blocked.

What are the symptoms of acute sinusitis?

The main symptoms include:

  • Facial pain/pressure/tenderness.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Thick yellow or green nasal discharge.
  • Loss of smell and taste.
  • Congestion/cough.
  • Bad breath.

You may also experience:

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/04/2020.

References

  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Sinusitis. Accessed 6/5/2020.
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Sinus Infection. Accessed 6/5/2020.
  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Rhinitis (Nasal Allergies). Accessed 6/5/2020.
  • Clinical practice guideline (update): adult sinusitis. Rosenfeld RM, Piccirillo JF, Chandrasekhar SS, Brook I, Ashok Kumar K, Kramper M, Orlandi RR, Palmer JN, Patel ZM, Peters A, Walsh SA, Corrigan MD. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Apr;152(2 Suppl):S1-S39
  • Worrall G. Acute sinusitis. Can Fam Physician. 2011;57(5):565–567.
  • Carlton DA, Beahm D, Suh JD, Chiu AG. Acute and Chronic Sinusitis. In: Lalwani AK. Eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 4e New York, NY. McGraw-Hill.
  • Cleveland Clinic Disease Management Project. Rhinosinusitis. Accessed 6/5/2020.
  • StatPearls LLC. Sinusitis. Accessed 6/5/2020.

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